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"150 Kiloton Nuclear Verne Gun"

verne gun space nuclear power peaceful nuclear explosions

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#1
Jakob

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150 Kiloton Nuclear Verne Gun

Yet another excellent application for nuclear bombs. These things really don't get enough love. Here's a fairly cheap device (only tens of millions of $s) that could allow us to launch thousands of tons to space at just dollars per pound. This is the Verne Gun. Such a simple, beautiful idea. Drill a borehole a few miles into the ground, set off a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb at the bottom, and use the shockwave to propel a capsule (called a Wang Bullet for some reason) into space. The cost of constructing the Verne Gun would be in the tens of millions.

 

I'm not sure how easy it is to appreciate the sheer power of this system. It can launch 3000 tons to orbit in one shot. The ISS weighs about 400 tons. All sorts of crazy stuff we could do with this. Just three launches would equal roughly 10,000 tons. This would be easily enough for a real, sci-fi type space station. I did some math based on the mass of the Bigelow Aerospace modules (100 tons for BA2100), and if we chained them together in a circle, we would get something absolutely massive. Based on back-of-the-envelope calculations we could have a torus roughly 500 meters in circumference and a 20 meter cross section. Easily big enough to spin for artificial gravity. That's a conservative estimate. Easily big enough to have an orbital town with hundreds of residents and its own little economy. A space venture of that magnitude could more than pay for itself. The industrial possibilities are endless: zero-gravity manufacturing (perhaps in a module in the center), tourism (read: space hotels), and more. SpiderFab technologies could likely reduce the cost of assembly by a lot.

 

And note that this is just three launches. Imagine ten or a hundred or a thousand.

 

This only works for bulk cargo, but that alone could revolutionize everything, almost as much as having a working Orion drive. Could we see it built? I'm not so sure. I don't agree with Yuli Ban--or Matthew--very often, but they're on the money here--Americans these days have a cowardly, lily-livered attitude towards cutting-edge science, quaking in fear at the slightest mention of "nuclear" or "genetic engineering". We need to up our game big league or certain authoritarian regimes that shall go unnamed will go roaring past us. Our current attitude won't do. We need the spirit of American innovationism back again. We need to learn to shout 'Never tell me the odds!' and not get bogged down in regulations and petty boondoggles. We need to rip the space treaties and 75 percent of the business regulations to shreds and release myriad companies into the Final Frontier. Maybe Trump will lead us in that direction. We shall see...


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#2
Raklian

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For some reason, I think a nuclear handgun. One with six nuclear bullets... :D


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#3
Alice Tepes

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BUT FALLOUT AND STUFF.


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#4
Jakob

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BUT FALLOUT AND STUFF.

Read the article, it addresses that.


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#5
Jakob

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For some reason, I think a nuclear handgun. One with six nuclear bullets... :D

Nuclear artillery is (was) a thing. Make it much smaller and there would be no point: the shooter would be caught in the blast radius.


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#6
caltrek

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 We need to rip the space treaties and 75 percent of the business regulations to shreds and release myriad companies into the Final Frontier.

 

 

Which space treaties?

 

Which regulations?

 

Platitudes are easy.  As Perot was fond of saying, the devil is in the details.

 

For example, suppose ripping up a particular space treaty ends up resulting in an all out nuclear war, say shortly after the time you put your first big bulk load into space?

 

(Keeping in mind that one well placed nuclear device might be able to just about vaporize said bulk cargo).


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#7
Jakob

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"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." -- Theodore Roosevelt (emphasis mine)

 

 

Which space treaties?

The Outer Space Treaty, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, and anything to do with planetary protection all come to mind.


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#8
caltrek

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The Outer Space Treaty, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, and anything to do with planetary protection all come to mind.

 

...and why do you suppose the collective mind decided that those treaties were a good idea?


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#9
Raklian

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For some reason, I think a nuclear handgun. One with six nuclear bullets... :D

Nuclear artillery is (was) a thing. Make it much smaller and there would be no point: the shooter would be caught in the blast radius.

 

 

My statement was meant to be a parody hence the smiley face at the end.


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#10
Alice Tepes

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I'm not talking about the immediate gamma ray burst though. the particulate "exhaust" would still be radioactive and if you are using it to propel the space craft it will get into the atmosphere. after repeated launches i don't think it would be too far off to say that the "pad" would become a "Superfund site". i just don't see a way to get around that.

 

PS. i think investing in some sort of  non-pulse fusion drive using a magnetic field nozzle would be a better idea if we are talking about nuclear propulsion by the way.


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#11
Viperbsd

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Well, I see where you are getting at with the whole launching material into space. Now, lets get down to real business. Such a bomb would create havoc on earth. Nations from around the globe would want that bomb, and I can assure you, most of those countries who desire it will not use it the way it is supposed to be used. Some vengeful country would decide to use it as a weapon, creating mass destruction, yada yada yada. In addition to that, the amount of debris would be extraordinary, causing dust clusters. Those clusters would then begin to get caught into Earths gravitational pull, and boom; ash winter! So, while yes it is a cool idea, there is most likely no way that this would ever be useful or ideal in any situation. Well, unless we decide to blow up an asteroid.

#12
rennerpetey

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If you are trying to truly launch something into space, this might be practical, but if you want to launch something into lower earth orbit(where the iss is) then that might be a problem.  lower earth orbit experiences 90% of the gravity of earth, to counteract this you have to move at 28,000 Kilometers per hour.  It is very difficult and expensive to accelerate something to 28,000 kph, in fact the most of the fuel in rockets is used to accelerate to orbit speed.  Your average space shuttle without fuel weighs 165,000 pounds or 82.5 tons, but with fuel it weighs a whopping 2.3 million pounds or 1150 tons.  If you translated this into 30,000 tons, you payload would only be able to weigh 2160 tons. Sorry  :)  

 

PS. I have done some research and found that If you go into High earth orbit(GPS satellites and the moon) it only takes half the fuel to accelerate and your orbit does not decay as fast, but you also have to climb to 35,000 km as opposed to low earth orbit which is only 2,000 km.  I can't find much good data on fuel consumption, but you can assume that the payload will be around 3000-4000 tons.

 

PPS. I forgot to mention that space shuttles also use fuel to slow out of orbit, but not so much that it affects the numbers by more than a few tons.


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#13
Jakob

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If you are trying to truly launch something into space, this might be practical, but if you want to launch something into lower earth orbit(where the iss is) then that might be a problem.  lower earth orbit experiences 90% of the gravity of earth, to counteract this you have to move at 28,000 Kilometers per hour.  It is very difficult and expensive to accelerate something to 28,000 kph, in fact the most of the fuel in rockets is used to accelerate to orbit speed.  Your average space shuttle without fuel weighs 165,000 pounds or 82.5 tons, but with fuel it weighs a whopping 2.3 million pounds or 1150 tons.  If you translated this into 30,000 tons, you payload would only be able to weigh 2160 tons. Sorry  :)  

 

PS. I have done some research and found that If you go into High earth orbit(GPS satellites and the moon) it only takes half the fuel to accelerate and your orbit does not decay as fast, but you also have to climb to 35,000 km as opposed to low earth orbit which is only 2,000 km.  I can't find much good data on fuel consumption, but you can assume that the payload will be around 3000-4000 tons.

 

PPS. I forgot to mention that space shuttles also use fuel to slow out of orbit, but not so much that it affects the numbers by more than a few tons.

The whole point is that you don't have to carry most of the fuel with you, since you leave most of it on the ground in the form of a nuke. You then only need (comparatively) small rockets to get into orbit. Alternatively, if you have a large space station with a long tether, you could in principle catch payloads as they go up. I suspect that if you aim correctly, you can get the load to arrive in such a direction as to not significantly affect the station's orbit. EDIT: this is indeed what a momentum exchange tether does.


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#14
Jakob

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We did accidentally launch a prototype Wang Bullet in the 1950s: https://en.wikipedia...mbbob#Priscilla


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